|'Creating Stunning Star Trails" and "Astrophotography Highlights'||1 October 2019|
|An interest in astronomy started when Mary McIntyre was very young and she was captivated with the moon and said she wanted to be an astronomer when she grew up. The interest never waned and she showed her enthusiasm in her presentation. Mary has a shed in her garden that she shares with her husband which is equipped with an array of telescopes and other instruments as they both have the same passion for exploring the heavens but go about it in different ways
Mary began by saying that photographing star trails was easy and could be done with any camera or even a smartphone! However, to get the best results you need to experiment to get the settings right and you need a sturdy tripod as any movement will spoil the sequence. A cable release is also necessary to avoid camera shake when pressing the shutter.
Mary then talked in great detail through the techniques she uses. These can be seen on the PDF which you can study.
She advises finding somewhere with as dark a night sky as possible to avoid too much light pollution. Be prepared to spend many hours on often cold nights while the camera is set up to automatically takes an image every few seconds.
After taking the many individual images they then have to be processed to make up the final star trail photograph. Star trail images are composed of hundreds or even thousands of images ‘stacked’ together to give a final image but luckily these days there is software that makes the job fairly quick and easy. You can either finish up with a single stacked image or software can be used to make a time-lapse video of the changing star trails. The many hours it takes to photograph the night sky can be reduced to a few seconds on a video!
Mary illustrated her presentation by showing examples of her own work. Star trails can have a foreground subject which can either be in silhouette or lit to show some colour and she experiments with different ways of showing the trails – they can be central by lining up on the pole star or by looking East or West when just part of the trail is shown. The image can also be cropped to give different effects.
Mary then went on to show how extremely knowledgeable she is about anything related to space. She showed us images of solar eclipses, phases of the moon, comets and deep space galaxies and nebula. Using a camera attached to a telescope she is able to photograph extreme close ups of the moon and even the solar flares. Mary experiments to get ‘earthshine’ on the dark areas of a new moon. The milky way can be photographed with a landscape in the foreground to make a stunning image.
Mary is interested in photographing any phenomena seen in the night sky such as the aurora borealis which can be sometimes be seen from as far south as Oxfordshire. Lightning strikes are another interest and Mary showed many amazing single shots or stacked images. Unusual cloud formations, rainbows and crepuscular rays featured in other images.
Mary ended the evening by showing that her photographic knowledge is not only in the sky but she takes an interest in the natural world. She takes extreme close ups of snow flakes and uses a microscope to see tiny creatures that can’t be seen by eye.
Chairman Steve Hardman thanked Mary for her very interesting presentation and summed up the evening by saying it was lovely to hear someone conveying so well, the passion she has for her subjects. PM
Images© Mary McIntyre Top left :Star-trails, Top right: Earth-shine 0n Moon, Left: Rolling Clouds, Right: Lightning stacked image